30 May 2011

Why bomb Libya but not Yemen or Syria or Rwanda?

Oil.  Libya hovers over about 46 billion barrels of oil reserves.  Yemen owns about 11 billion, Syria, 2.5 billion, Rwanda, 0 billion.  So don't let anyone con you into thinking the US is a Dudley-do-right nation.  We're in it for our own interests or should I say corporate interests.  We're bombing Libya for oil.  We (as in a group of white middle aged wealthy men who may be Americans but not necessarily, hold vast power over policy decisions, and can't tell the difference between Tyler Perry and any other black person) invaded Iraq not because Saddam was Satan but because they're sitting on over 110 billion barrels of oil reserves.  Case closed.  We, the people, are complicit because of our insatiable attachment to driving our own cars.  Trust me, I'd rather drive my car to work - it takes 15 minutes by car - than to take the MCTS - it takes an hour (by bike it'd take me at least 1.5 hrs).  Anyway, until we have a stronger commitment in this country to public transportation, we'll be dependent on oil.
Some folks were sad to see Herb Kohl resign.  I think they must have been republicans because Mr. Kohl hasn't been much of a democrat.  This past week he voted to continue provisions in the Patriot Act that allow the government to eavesdrop on any and all citizens.  That seems utterly mind-boggling.  He's also not been the loudest advocate for discontinuing the Bush tax cuts nor has he been vocal about cuts to Inheritance tax, or Capital Gains tax.  But it makes sense, he's a billionaire.  How long will it be before all of our senators are billionaires?   
Still searching for the Higgs boson.  In the meantime, Stephen Hawking has decided there is no heaven.  Yet the universe keeps providing images that make it hard to accept:
Comet Between Fireworks and Lightning
Credit & Copyright: Antti Kemppainen
Explanation: Sometimes the sky itself is the best show in town. In January 2007, people from Perth, Australia gathered on a local beach to watch a sky light up with delights near and far. Nearby, fireworks exploded as part of Australia Day celebrations. On the far right, lightning from a thunderstorm flashed in the distance. Near the image center, though, seen through clouds, was the most unusual sight of all: Comet McNaught. The photogenic comet was so bright that it even remained visible though the din of Earthly flashes. Comet McNaught has now returned to the outer Solar System and is now only visible with a large telescope. The above image is actually a three photograph panorama digitally processed to reduce red reflections from the exploding firework.
Is it possible to just get rid of organized religions without dismissing the notion of god?  It seems a little weird that Jesus who was quite a bit of a rebel - similarly with Mohammed and Abraham and Moses - would advocate organized religions that we have today battling over parishioners, vying for donations, and searching for more innocent children to convert through pedophilia.  Maybe there should be a lot more dancing, like Lionel Messi.    

25 May 2011

Scott Walker, megalomaniac or OFB?

Dear  Governor Walker,

There was never any doubt that you would stand by your childish lemonade-stand slogan "Wisconsin, Open for Business."  The only questions were what social upheavals your conservative agenda would include and for how much (was that 25 cents written in crayon?).  From the moment the tort reform bill passed, many of us saw the writing on the wall.  Many others were blind to the idea that you were an extremist bent on gaining power.

Along with your henchmen (other republicans such as the unimaginative and unsympathetic Leah Vukmir, business leaders, and that one guy who claims to be an independent who's only an independent if that means he's not a democrat), who are ostensibly as averse to the public as you, you have passed a series of bills that have set Wisconsin up as the next breeding ground for low wages, enormous public transportation issues, inadequate health care insurance, and far greater income, education, and racial disparity.  It is clear that your administration does not represent the people of Wisconsin but only a few of the people of Wisconsin, namely you.

But one thing you have to get credit for is your plan.  "The main thing businesses are calling for is government to get out of the way," you said in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday.  The statement drew loud cheers according to The Journal Times.com. Congratulations, it's reassuring to know that even for lunatics on the fringe family will still show up in support. You have led the charge to withdraw government from business and turn big government into big business for you and your friends.  Perhaps there is some hope in that aim, for Wisconsinites, that you'll eventually eliminate your own job.

As the "open-for-business" governor (the OFB) you have now gone all in; you've shot your wad, so to speak.  Well, OFB, what are you going to do if the jobs don't return and you've only succeeded in handing over piles of cash to corporate interests who in turn have shipped more jobs to overseas markets and have provided their CEOs with huge raises?

One problem you might run into is that the working people in this country still have anti-trust laws and OSHA regulations.  Those are some nagging regulations that corporations really don't like much.  Corporate interests are not wed to worker safety, union rights, or lunch breaks.  They want profit.  Cheap labor provides profit, Mr. Walker.  Now what are you going to do about our exorbitant minimum wage law?  Wisconsin has a minimum wage that ensures even the lowest paid hourly worker earns a living wage.  That's right in Wisconsin the minimum wage is 7 dollars (that's whole dollars not half) and 25 cents (that's a quarter of a dollar).  That's 290 bucks for a full-time (40 hrs) week's worth of work, which is about 15 (fifteen) thousand dollars a year.  Holy shmit!  What is this China?  When was the last time you earned 7.25 an hour, gov'nor, back when you were pedaling newspapers for the State Journal?  You spend more than that on your daily doses of Rogaine and caffeine and that's before breakfast. 

So basically anyone who works full-time at minimum wage is earning just above the federal poverty rate.  And we're the wealthiest country in the world?  Yikes, I'm glad were not the third wealthiest, who knows what atrocities would be taking place then.

Another sticky issue is sick days - corporations don't like paid sick days at all,  OFB.  Milwaukee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the paid sick day ordinance back in 2008.  In another one of those 'you-told-us-so' moments (like the collective bargaining thing), you planned for that too.  Your current ruling party thwarted Milwaukee's popularly voted-in referendum for businesses to provide paid sick days, thanks to the snarky Leah Vukmir (a nurse, even!  Better hope never to end up in her care she'll pinch the IV, ouch).  It was a legal but sneaky move overruling the populace by claiming the populace didn't know what they were voting for. Hmm... I think we did know what we were voting for on the referendum but we didn't know what we were voting for when we got you.

So with all of your aspirations in your hands, you've given yourself a bit more power this week to fill out state jobs, and to block administrative rules used to implement state laws.  OFB, you're plan for Wisconsin is clear as mud now.  As the state's chief megalomaniac, you plan to ensure that WI is stuck in the middle of 1870, with the exceptions of your dependence on the automobile, because that wasn't invented yet, just wait another 11 years or so, and the size of your salary. You want to save WI some money, how about working for $7.25 an hour?

OFB, you have stuck to your plan much like another politician who stuck to his plans.  As that former president once said, "You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."   And he also said, "We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe."

Keep it up gov', and you'll live up to those bold words from G.W. when he said, "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."  You'll be another great political leader in the mold of Reagan, Ford, Bush, Clinton, and Nixon (or are those five reasons why we might be screwed).


Your humble and obliging servant,
Kilgore Spinoza 

22 May 2011

What, I'm Still Here? No Rapture for thousands of unfortunates

Dear abandoned christian,

Lo and behold, it's May 22nd.  You were supposed to migrate back to the lord yesterday and now you're down in the dumps.  Did he forget?  Did he change his mind?  No, I'm sorry, neither happened.  You were duped.  There is no rapture.  There might not even be a god.  This whole story about getting lifted off of the Earth and charioted away to heaven is the type of tale that many of us call bullshit.  And bullshit is what people do best.  That's why we have so many words for bullshit, and sales people, and business people, and lawyers and politicians and, yes, religious leaders.  They are all deceitfully selling something in order to turn a profit, either in power or material wealth. 

Anyone that promises you eternal salvation in exchange for your paycheck is conning you.  No one on this planet knows what will happen after you die, not the people who wrote the "holy" books, not the people who put the books together, not the people who maintain them, and definitely not the imams, priests, monks, or anyone else.  They are hoodwinking you along with millions of others.  So you shouldn't feel so bad - you're not alone.  You're not special.  You're not getting saved and you're not the only person susceptible to getting hoaxed.  Chicanery is widespread.  You didn't go and blow yourself up or sell off all of your belongings.  Take this as a learning opportunity.  Now you've learned something about yourself.  You are very eager to believe cockamamie fables. 

You see, there are two sides to all of us.  The ability to bullshit and the ability to be gullible.  Like David Hannum said, "There's a sucker born every minute."   That's why this arrangement works so well.  The arrangement of religion and god and the hierarchy of religion.  The priests, or any leaders, swindle the parishioners, or any followers, and they in turn are bamboozled by their leaders, and in turn they are hornswoggled by their leaders, or some of those in that chain are fully aware of the grand scheme and only stay in it because of the  power and wealth.  Of course that's probably why they all stick to it.  Who doesn't want power and wealth?  That's what you're hoping for in heaven, which leads again to your susceptibility to cockamamie ideas.

I mean stop to think about religion and money for just a second.  A lot of people are getting rich using religion as their product, think Robertson, Falwell, Baker.  Why are religious leaders asking people for money?  Shouldn't god provide for them if they are so charmed?  At one time, and still some do, priests and holy people created products, wine, clothing, and provided services to people in need.  Nowadays, evangelicals just sell DVDs of their sermons, preach to packed arenas, fondle little boys, issue death warrants, and create division and havoc.  They have to be megalomaniacs to market themselves and their ideas as much as they do.  Basically they're megalomaniacs on welfare. 

Now, again you can't take all the blame, Christianity has a great marketing scheme.  It's hard to ignore.  They've got a great product in eternal life.  Crosses are a ubiquitous symbol, Jesus is on billboards.  It's like Coca-cola or Pepsi, it's everywhere and it's relatively cheap for the value.  So you fell for a pretty well crafted scheme.  Really.  Bernie Madoff could only do it for about twenty years.  The church has been doing it for over a thousand.  You can't beat yourself up about it.  Anyone could get flimflammed, duped, wheedled, tricked, ripped-off, or bilked the way you did.

The question is about what you will do next.  You can either continue being deceived or start asking yourself if believing in nonsensical stories about a supernatural being who created the whole universe just for the amusement of people is worth sacrificing your Sundays for.  Add to that, this creator killed himself in the form of his son so that you could be saved and carted away from the earth on the glorious return of the son, it gets you some dubious stories.  It's a pretty far-fetched story to begin with but add the stuff in between and it makes it even more so.  But it's faith, which is a euphemism for gullibility, so it doesn't have to make sense.  It just has to feel right and have been indoctrinated through daily prayer, weekly sermons, and the ultimatum of eternal damnation.

My advice to you, barring the cessation of your religious practices, is to take a break from it for a while.  Take it easy read some other books, not just the ones about the end times or christian ideals.  You could try reading the bible, for example.  But for christ sakes stop being such a loyal follower.  You can love but not have to do what some egomaniac tells you to do or believe what some lunatic in a robe instructs you to believe.

So good luck moving forward.  Please take heart and remember the words of Elbert Hubbard, "Don't take life too seriously.  You'll never get out of it alive."

Your humble servant,
Kilgore Spinoza   

P.S. Hope you can get your belongings back.

20 May 2011

Agent Orange dumping and US acts of terrorism

It's absolutely mind boggling how Americans can be steadfast in their denial of the wrongdoings of the US government.  Many people believe to this day that the US is currently fighting a "war against terrorism" in the name of freedom.  And "taking the fight to the enemy," and so on and so forth.  Unfortunately the people who believe this hogwash are either morons or living in denial and need to read more rather than watch network television.   The US is not fighting "terrorism" any more than it is perpetrating it.  This is not a new concept.  Noam Chomsky, William Blum, Michael Parenti, Michael Moore, to name a few, have created libraries of books and documentaries based on the illegal military acts and covert operations carried out by the US government.

If the aforementioned political analysts and scholars cannot convince the public based on their arguments, nothing I can do will.  But that does not stop the evidence from stacking up.  It should come as no surprise then to hear that today more evidence of the atrocities committed by the US have surfaced.   So just in case you're one of those still not convinced that the US has been a destructive, dare I write, "terrorist", force around the globe, the US government is trying to make it very easy for everybody to accept.

News has broken this week that in 1978 the US military buried 250 55-gallon barrels of Agent Orange in South Korea near Daegu near Camp Carroll in Waegwan.  Daegu is the third largest metropolitan center in the country and a tainted water supply or poisoned food could affect hundreds of thousands of people.  According to three Army veterans, they were ordered to dig a trench about the "length of a city block" and bury the barrels marked as Compound Orange from Vietnam.  Many of the barrels were leaking chemicals at the time of their burial.  They US government claimed long ago that all of the leftover Agent Orange used in Vietnam had been incinerated.  Then they admitted to using it in the demilitarized zone.  "Effective December 16, 2003, Congress authorized these benefits to children with spina bifida of certain veterans who served at or near the demilitarized zone in Korea between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971, because Agent Orange is known to have been sprayed in that area."  Now the three veterans have come forward to try to settle their consciences and expand the time frame for the use of Agent Orange in Korea.  If the story turns out to be accurate, it would mean that the US military had been using Agent Orange in South Korea into the late 70's rather than as earlier reported as the early 70's.  A fairly large difference in time and the amount of victims exposed.

Stillborn babies - result of prenatal dioxin
exposure from Agent Orange
Agent Orange has been associated with myriad health problems such as spina bifida, diabetes, birth defects, lung disease, and on and on.  The US Department of Veterans Affairs handles cases of exposure through the Agent Orange Registry Health Exam for Veterans, which was established in 1978.  No evidence of exposure needs to be presented by the veteran that they were exposed; they just need to have symptoms.  The US government is fully aware and fully cognizant of the dangers presented by the dioxin, which even in small doses, 0.15g, could kill thousands.

Beyond the atrocity of burying a known dioxin in the ground, meaning hundreds of thousands of Koreans could be at risk of exposure through the food and water supply, is the very plausibility of cleaning it up.  The US left thousands of mines in Cambodia that it failed to clean up; we left hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese deformed and dying but failed to pay reparations or clean-up that mess.  As an illustration of further corporate abuses, while the Vietnamese, US veterans, Cambodians and perhaps countless others Asia were suffering, the company responsible for creating the dioxin, Monsanto, grew wealthier and prospered.

In 1984, when the US government settled the class action lawsuit for using Agent Orange, the US veterans collect $180 million nearly half paid by Monsanto.  The Vietnamese victims were given next to nothing.  Monsanto continues to provide the US and the world with genetically enhanced seeds, deadly chemical defoliants, and various insecticides.  Through the second quarter of this year, 2011, they are posting a gross profit of $3.1B.  

The term terrorism means, according to Merriam-Webster, premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

And, from the US Dept of Defense, terrorism is defined as the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.

Using the above definitions, below is a list of terrorist actions taken by the US.  The list is far from exhaustive.  Yet it is indicative of the atrocities that are carried out continuously by our country.  Today, Pres. Obama called on Syria and Bahrain to stop harming their own citizens.  Even though he holds last year's Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Obama sounded awfully hypocritical and pedantic after ordering the bombing of Libya, the continued occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the execution of bin Laden.

Acts of Terrorism committed by the US (in no order of significance nor date nor is it exhaustive)
1.  The atrocities committed against the Native Peoples of the Americas - the mass migration of the civilized tribes, the massacres of 1622, at wounded knee, and countless massacres of defenseless women and children carried out by Custer and other military savages.
2.  Slavery especially as related to the Jim Crow laws, the lynchings, and murders of innocents.
3.  The treatment of Filipinos in the Spanish-American war.
4.  Bombings of Germany, e.g. Dresden and
5.  Japan.
6.  Use of chemical warfare in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
7.  Latin America, this list could include just about every country in the Caribbean and Latin America but here are a few:
El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala
7.  Invasion of Iraq and
8.  Afghanistan.
9.  Bombing of Libya and
10. Pakistan by Drones - perhaps, as Nir Rosen has suggested, no different than IEDs
11. Current embargoes on Iran and Cuba
12. Sending an assassination team of Navy SEALs into a sovereign nation - violating international law
Again this list is not meant to be exhaustive but merely illustrative of the terrorism practiced by the preacher, the USA (see also American Acts of Terrorism).  The World Court sanctioned the US for its role in Nicaragua, but we haven't changed our behaviors. 

Do you think that the US is a terrorist nation?  If not, why not?  If so, why do you think so?  What solutions are there for prompting the cessation of all terrorist acts committed by our country?

Note:  In separate but related news, Osama bin Laden is looked upon as a martyrwho was fighting for, you guessed it, freedom.  Interesting that our corporations and our government are spreading capitalist values (not democratic) while enslaving the global poor in order to turn record profits.
Read more about the Agent Orange dumping:
Watch a video: This is a bit of a sensationalized presentation with the spooky music and dramatic flare but it's worth watching: 
Read more about the effects of Agent Orange and the veterans who are eligible for claims:
Read more about the US report on Global Terrorism:

19 May 2011

So many choices, so few options

Newt Gingrich the once iconic former Speaker of the House declared himself a candidate for president and quickly put his foot in his mouth.  In his press release he said that he was against Paul Ryan's Medicare plan because it was too radical and that he advocated an approach that gave seniors choices.  The news has broke that low and behold Mr. Ryan has been hurt by Gingrich's comments, "With allies like that, who needs the left?" Ryan reportedly replied.  We already knew Mr. Ryan was terribly thin skinned when he was offended by President Obama's speech back in April.  But it seems Gingrich has pissed off the wrong rich white guy this time.

The more interesting comment Gingrich made however was his implication that seniors should have a choice.  This is a common motif in the United States - that everyone should have choices.  Currently there is legislation that pushes for greater choice in education, where to build new construction (the WI wetlands bills), how and where to carry firearms, etc. (notice that missing legislation includes lifting the regulations on marriage).

Do we really have choices?  We have about as many choices across our lives as we have at a supermarket or McDonald's.  The menu at McDonald's is loaded with appetizing/disgusting meals that are all essentially the same.  At the store, there are boxes of "New and Improved" this or that and every one of them is exactly the same.  The voucher schools offer parents more choices but the schools are essentially the same.  Put more bodies in them add more troubled students and less funding and the result is a private MPS school.  No difference.  Google the headlines for the news and every source reports on the same story.  It's a little strange, almost eery.

But this is what we do as people in America.  We create the same thing over and over again in different packages and with different marketing slogans to try to entice the gullible and fickle among us (ourselves) into shelling out more cash for something we already have and don't need or for something we want because it seems so familiar but we already have dozens of.  Franchises have spread across this country faster than kudzu.

Each subsequent Cousin's that opens or Taco 
Bell or Target or any other shop looks, smells, sounds, and acts the same, and sells almost exactly the same products. 

The result of all of this is that we get many choices but very few options.  The differences between our choices are small enough to be insignificant.

Some will argue that generic brands cost less money and therefore are a different option.  But that is beside the point.  The real issue at stake is quality.  The generic brand is the same product as the known brand name product - just without the catchy slogan and advertising (propaganda) budget. 

On At Issue this afternoon, the guest was talking about shopping at the less expensive grocery store in order to stick to a budget.  If there were anything we should be paying more for, I would think it would be food.  Yet our choices remain limited to the large shopping markets.  Recently Coops have been getting more popular and some active citizens are pushing for more people to buy locally grown foods.  This is a great start to reclaiming real options.

Nonetheless, we should ask ourselves, is the society we really hope to live in the one we are building?  The US is one of only a couple of developed nations that does not offer a universal health care option.  Yet the private insurers offer no distinct options and we still spend 20% of our GDP on health care.  You'll get about the same lousy coverage on your own from every insurer and the rates will be comparable across the board.

The history of this development spans the past five or more presidential administrations.  Since the late 70's the US has been commandeered by supply-side economics and the free-marketers expect everything to get sorted out on its own.  Hogwash.  The result is each of us has less freedom to choose than we did before the Reagan revolution.  Prior to the big franchise operations like Walmart and Walgreens, etc. there were local shops that specialized in local products.  Those days are old hat but may be reemerging in shops like the Outpost and in farmers' markets.

Welcome to the days filled with a plethora of choices but a shortage of options.

What do you think?  Do we have fewer options and more choices?  Or are there significant distinctions between our choices?
"The world is out of its mind with stupidity and the worship of stupidity.  You're either willing to be part of all time or you're going to limit yourself to being part of the current time."   Sean Penn
Robert Frank (see The Wealth Report over on the right) blogged about the rich moving more money overseas.  People commented that it was Obama's fault.  But that's ridiculous.  The wealthy have been investing overseas in emerging markets forever.  In the 60's it was almost fashionable for Americans to renounce their citizenship in order to not pay taxes.  Traditionally, one of the habits of the wealthy is to invest a significant percentage of funds in emerging markets - some analysts recommend as much as a third.  So it's ignorant to blame anyone for this "news".  It is how the wealth is earned.  The people who think that politics plays a part in the actual habits of the wealthy are not paying attention.  It is quite the reverse.  It's actually kind of a good sign for our economy that the wealthy are starting to feel confident enough to start investing again.  That could bode well for us dingoes riding the coattails of the rich waiting for the scraps.  
Two more days to the Rapture, have you got your attire picked out?  If you're looking for ideas, look no further, you aren't the first person to wonder this.  The Stranger is happily passing out advice.
Lastly, have you been wondering about what happened to the Confederate States of America after the Civil War?  Well they are currently being occupied.  You can join their list and read all of their exciting news right here: http://confederatestatesmilitia.ning.com/.  They are planning to secede but this time through non-violent means.   Maybe they won't have to worry.  After the Rapture, the Bible belt will be as slimmed down as Ireland after the great potato famine.

Good night!

15 May 2011

Religion, terrorism, and name calling

Contradictions are interesting.  We all have them.  Perhaps you know someone who is anti-abortion but cheers when a missile strike destroys a convoy in Afghanistan carrying innocent people as well as a suspected terrorist.  Or someone who claims to be a Christian and yet lives a life of sheer excess.  Perhaps you know someone who lays claim to atheism yet won't step on a crack for fear of damaging his/her mother's back.

All of these instances are contradictory to the core belief system.  The mistake that is often made when contradictions such as these are observed is to label any of the people who practice them as hypocrites. Name calling is a convenience meant to eliminate any necessity to understand something in greater detail.  The easiest action to perform is to label something by naming it.  The act of naming something implies that there is understanding of that thing.  By calling the people who commit suicide bombing attacks "terrorists" and "evil" the government instills in the public opinion a certain level of understanding.  The public associates these groups as malevolent in reaction to the names themselves assigned to the entities.  The larger problem with this type of propaganda is that for many people there is no further investigation to uncover why or the underlying reasons for people to use themselves as weapons of destruction. 

What is an act of terrorism anyway?  If the US or one of its allies kills a thousand innocent civilians, is it an act of terrorism?  What is meant by the concept of evil?  Is invading a sovereign nation evil?  Is it evil to kill someone without cause?  These are nebulous terms and the meanings can shift from one person to the next or depending on which country is carrying out the action.  So understanding them is arbitrary.

God and the religious
One objection to the argument that a benevolent god exists is the presence of terrible unnecessary suffering of innocent life in the world, or what is commonly referred to as the problem of evil (here's that thorny concept yet again).  H.L. Mencken once said, "[y]ou can never underestimate a human being."  Imagine the most malicious action, crime, or offense someone could perform and you'll find thousands who have and thousands who have committed much worse crimes against humanity and/or against nature - many times in the name of religion. 

The religionist has no explanation for this.  What's surprising is how many Christian apologists use the same tactic to address the problem of unnecessary suffering.  They try to explain away the problem by describing god as having a motive for allowing innocents to suffer that's so utterly complicated we mortals cannot possibly understand.  It's an absolutely disastrous counterargument because the whole premise of Christianity, and Judaism and Islam, is to develop a "relationship" with the Lord.  It seems to be a daunting obstacle to not understand why an omnipotent, omnipresent, benevolent super-being would allow the hideous crimes of mass genocides, fraternicides, rape, child molestation, torture, senseless acts of brutality, the slow death of malnutrition, etc. when this omnipotent creature could blink and the level of pain reduced substantially without much impact on our relationships with it.

Just a slight reduction in the amount of pain that innocent people suffer through wouldn't create too much of a problem, would it?  People could still have an option to choose to love god or not.  But unfortunately this doesn't happen.  The only cases where pain and suffering have been diminished is when people intervene, many times religionists but not predominately so and definitely not exclusively.   

In this case the fact that so often the counterargument to the problem of unnecessary suffering is of the same nature from a variety of people is an indication that some very effective indoctrination is taking place.  Obviously philosophers and thinkers far more intelligent than the writer of this entry have thought about these issues and argued over these issues for hundred of years.  They came up with a pat answer that has been passed down form generation to generation without much question.   Through a sleight-of-hand naming trick religionists are playing the same game as politicians using the words "terrorist" and "evil". 

(The most interesting position that I have heard was from a Muslim who argued that allah is everything.  Allah is wicked and good.  But Allah never promises to be only benevolent.  Interestingly from that standpoint there may as well be no allah or god because a supernatural being becomes irrelevant.  On the other hand, if there is a god that creates suffering, there's no guarantee that the afterlife will be pleasurable.  It is just as likely that eternity will be filled with torment.)   

The answer to the problem of evil doesn't address the problem with any further level of understanding.  Using "god" and "evil" and the "nature of god" as concepts that have no pinned down definition causes inconsistencies that cannot be reconciled.  These concepts in the end exist as arbitrary notions without value and without meaning.  What god wants becomes devoid of any actual significance because god becomes an unknowable conceptual device.

This all begs the question: What's the problem with there being no god?  It might straighten out a lot of conflict in the world if people just accepted the idea that religion is myth.  Then we can get on with tackling the real problems that our children are going to inherit from us if they live that long. 

Let's stop arguing and fussing about this god or that god and this religion or that religion.  Let's be rid of the whole idea altogether.   Perhaps then we can address the tangible issues like the environmental devastation people are inflicting on the Earth, the inequality of wealth, education, justice, and health in the US and globally.  Afterall, a stitch in time saves nine.

Marx called religion the opiate of the masses.  It's time to get rid of one of civilization's sedatives, plenty others left.  Get rid of religion and go get involved in the real world.

So let's all get involved.  If you have any ideas on how to get more involved in addressing our global problems, please post them online.  Let's get the ball rolling by getting rid of one cause for so much division and war.

Some places to start: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/getinvolved/
An Alternative to Competition
In a later blog entry, I will set out an argument for why competition is actually harming innovation and productivity.  But in today's entry, I'd just like to post a brief word about it.

There is a plausible alternative to competition in a classroom setting.  That is cooperation and collaboration.  Rather than calling on one person to answer a question, call on groups to answer questions.  A teacher ought to inspire a hunger for learning and a desire to solve problems by communicating with others.  It's a positive approach that can become effective with practice and will instill longer retention rates.  Teaching should revolve around authentic learning experiences not fabricated examinations. 

11 May 2011

if you don't have anything nice to say...

While it's true that the US has many problems that are shared globally,  there are times when even a grumpy left-swinging liberal curmudgeon has to admit that it's great to be an American.  Whether stifling journalists for criticizing their leaders, or the forced indoctrination of youth, we Americans don't have to worry about the ordeals citizens of other countries have to face.  No, we live in the country of the free - freedom of the press, and freedom of ideas.

So today should be a day of celebration of the wonderful and benevolent USA.   As an example of how loving and kind we are, look to the State of Wisconsin (WI).  The WI legislature has made an epic decision in the assembly to expand the voucher program.  This singular decision extends freedom to more people - the freedom to choose. "MPS is broken - it's broken," intoned an impassioned Jeff Fitzgerald, the Assembly Speaker and quite a skilled whip.

"I think the idea of giving more choice to parents should be an easy sell to our caucus," pleaded Robin Vos, in a retro-dark blue suit with a aqua-maroon tie.

The vote fell strictly along party lines.  "Those damned liberals have got to start voting the right way," said Philip Smooch, a local Madison tea party mascot.  As Mr. Smooch explains his position, he is adorned in the costume of a "regimental officer from the Continental army, circa 1809."  He's decked out in the lavish colors that make his bluish-green eyes sparkle and his plush buttocks percolate with the sheer joy of being a gun-toting conservative right-winger all the while bubbling in the blue coat with red trim.  Mr. Smooch goes on to explains that "marriage is between one man and one woman; we won that fight in this state alreadyGod hates fags."  Mr. Smooch's knee-highs are as cute as punch on his chubby but strong-looking calves.  "It's the lefties that are ruining this country," he exclaimed.  "They're driving us into a hole - a deep, deep hole.  It's time we start rising up instead of lagging behind."

Most of the God-fearing, God-loving Christians in this great country know the chances of being thrown into a soviet gulag are waning.  Today an ever more imminent threat comes from the Islamic fascists who are attacking us simply for our great passionate embrace of freedom and liberty.  "Romans 1:30 says 'They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents.' We are faced with ever more sin.  Pray that the Lord Jesus will save us," intoned Mary Montera.  "Pray to Jesus because judgment day is coming." And the attacks could come from anywhere, but especially from public schools, homosexual marriages, and abortion clinics.

It is with this clear plan for the future that the religious have converged on capitol buildings all around this great country opining our rights to freedom to carry, freedom from taxes, freedom from abortion, freedom from public education and public sector employment - "those freeloading bastards getting rich on the public dole" - and freedom of expression.  "The second amendment gives us our protection; our forefathers predicted the fight against Satan would be constant," Mr. Smooch went on.  He along with many Republican heroes are hoping the current WI legislature will pass the concealed carry bill, expand the voucher program, cut the earned income credit, and cease funding of planned parenthood's abortion crazed maniacally twisted physicians.

Why of all the days of the year should May 11th be selected?  Well it's obvious.  First, 11 is a good number - two ones together snugly and it's May, for goodness sakes, it's May.  So, petition your legislators that it should be declared that May 11 should be heralded as a new holiday - US of A day.  US of A day is not like July 4, that's when we celebrate independence from England.  No US of A Day is the day we celebrate freedom and the joy of living in the greatest country born under God's will.

One last necessary selling point.  All good holidays have catchy slogans - Merry Xmas, Happy Easter,  Valentine's Day - Linin' 'em up, puttin' 'em down, Good Friday - it's not just a day off, etc.  It's time to announce our slogan for US of A Day: if you can't find something good to say about the US of A, don't say anything at all or just get the hell out.

It's been suggested that's a little too long - so how about - U-S-A, no room for gays, Right? Or, USA we make the poor pay.

There could also be a theme song that is played.  Randy Newman surely wouldn't mind lending his tune to this spiritual cause: 
America, America step out into the light.  You're the best dream man has ever dreamed, and may all your Christmases be white.

And then there are the outfits.  It's a bet that the Republican caucus can come up with some great dress/costume ideas. It's time to get Sir Reinhold Reince Priebus working on this - get something accomplished that praises our great nation for once.  Viva Ronald Reagan!

What do you think?  Have you got any ideas for the slogan for this great new holiday, US of A Day?  If it isn't May 11 should it be November 11? 
Read more about Republican slogans:  Slogans for US of A Day

08 May 2011

Are religious fundamentalists damaging public education?

In 1989, Wisconsin passed Wisconsin Act 336 that established the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP).  Wisconsin was the first state to offer parents a choice of either staying at a public school or taking a voucher in order to pay for private education.  The program had its participation capped at 15% of the population of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). The legislation set up a voucher program for low income families at 175% the national poverty level or below to attend non-sectarian private schools.  In the 2010-2011 school year, 20,996 students (based solely on 3rd Friday head count) were enrolled in 102 participating schools that were predominantly religious

Studies have indicated that voucher programs do not achieve statistically better results than their public school competitors.  According to the Department of Public Instruction, the WSAS results are worse than MPS's. At the same time, they are sapping needed money away from MPS.  At best the research and current literature are inconclusive about consistent results.  And data does not track students from the time they enroll to the time they leave.     

Every year, funding for the next year is based on the 3rd Friday head count.  Private schools collect their vouchers based on this count.  Invariably, teachers in MPS prepared for the 4th, 5th, and 6th weeks of the school year because then there would be a sudden surge in enrollment.  This practice takes place every year in every MPS school.

The students that arrive later in the year are welcomed to secular public classrooms that cost them no additional money.  At the same time, if the student had been kicked out of a private voucher school, the school keeps the $6,700 that the MPCP had paid as part of the 3rd Friday count.  The best data would trace the student from the beginning of the year until the end of the year regardless of mobility.     

This funding structure leads to a plethora of problems for MPS.  In my eight years as an elementary and middle school teacher at two different schools, it was rare to have a text book for each child.  We made do; we learned to share.  In order to ensure there was paper in the classroom, teachers asked parents to make  donations, still teachers paid out of pocket for most supplies, even in the high-achieving, effectively run schools.  As the population of voucher students rises each year this funding scenario grows worse for MPS.

The funding for many of the institutions that receive vouchers is also much higher because they charge tuition and have wealthy contributors.  The type of investment that the billionaires in the religious right have made on private schools is the type of investment that should be made in every school for every child.  Private voucher schools have intensified income inequality in education.  Conservative fundamentalists are pushing the voucher agenda all over the country selling it as reform that works.  In Milwaukee, the lobbying by religious groups swayed the debate and by 1998 private religious schools were added to the list of participating private schools.  Now rather than tax dollars designated for public education, the money goes to religious education.

Parental Involvement
When Howard Fuller became a strong advocate for MPCP, he leaned hard on the idea that it was a way to get parents involved with their children's education.  The main message to parents was and is that they should have a choice.  One of the lead cheerleaders for MPCP in Wisconsin is Leah Vukmir.  "The voucher program has caused dramatic improvement in the public schools," Vukmir explained. "As a result of choice and competition, there are more opportunities for students."  The biggest problem with this idea is that the programs provide opportunities for a small percentage of the student population whose parent(s) were already highly involved in the child's life.  In many cases these are students who would perform equally well had they attended their local neighborhood school.  Thus, the voucher program removes high achieving students from public schools.  As a result test scores at MPS schools drop and achievement overall drops because high achieving students often act as the role models at the school.

Special Education Needs (SEN)
Private institutions are under no mandate to provide individual education programs (IEP) for students with special needs (SEN).  Because of this many students do not receive the services they would had they attended a public school.  What does happen is that, for example, speech therapists by law are required to provide services.  A student who is not registered at the MPS school where a speech therapist works, but is instead enrolled at a private institution, may still receive services from that speech therapist.  When the therapist could be spending time with students that are actually enrolled in his/her school, the therapist m,ust attend to the needs of the private school student.  Not only is this a disservice to the members of the public school, but it also means that taxpayers are paying for services in addition to the voucher.

As the voucher cap increases, the results will be that MPS will become the school district for all of the challenging kids that get kicked out of the private schools.  Eventually the population in MPS will be entirely of those students who can't afford private schools, don't have parents who are involved in the decision making, or don't function well in the traditional educational setting.   

Focus of Teaching
Additionally, the focus at schools is increasingly about competition.  The competition is only comparable in data - test scores.  So, everyone is preparing for testing, all year long.  The authentic learning experience will no longer exist if education becomes driven by the capitalist notion that competition leads to improvement.  This is an obvious obfuscation but regardless, in education competition leads nowhere.  Students need to learn how to work together in order to solve problems rather than vying against each other.  Cooperation and collaboration ought to become far more important skills than competition.

While all of the finagling over money and cap limits is taking place, sectarian schools are quietly taking tax dollars and teaching children biblical myths; some go so far as to to teach that the bible is the word of god, that the earth is 6,000 years old, and that evolution is not science-based but only a hypothetical theory.  To many forward-minded people, the idea that our tax dollars are funding children to be proselytized would be hard to accept and unfathomable in a developed country, after all this is not Saudi Arabia.  But the religious right have successfully focused the attention on the failing public school system not on the content or learning provided by the private religious schools.

The religious right have dominated the debate and are succeeding in forcing their agenda on parents, especially in urban districts.  The cost of all of this is that public education is being damaged irrevocably.  The gap in educational attainment between the poor and the wealthy is increasing and vouchers contribute to that crisis. 

What do you think?  Are religious fundamentalists damaging public education?

Read more about it and decide for yourself:








05 May 2011

The writing on the wall of Wisconsin's transportation, or the dire death of KRM

For many years, Europeans speculated about the Indian Rhinoceros.  Artists, like Albrecht Duerer, drew elaborate pictures of a metal plated beast with a horn on the tip of its head and another pointing out from its shoulders.  Many years after the well known Duerer wood print was circulated, travelers brought back first hand stories of the Indian Rhino.  Later, in the mid 1600s an Indian Rhino was actually in gifted to England.  Yet still the myth that the Indian Rhino was a beast with two horns persisted.  Artists created sculptures and drawings that persistently showed the second horn between the shoulder blades years after the Indian Rhino had been well introduced to Europe and they could see that there was no second horn.

So it is that our mythology survives embedded in the inner workings of our brains.  Myths are often more lifelike than reality.  Gov. Walker refused $810 million in federal money that would have connected Minneapolis to Chicago via Milwaukee and Madison by rail.  This would have been a bold investment in the transportation necessary for business in the future.  As the j.s. reported yesterday, something all of us are familiar with, the cost of travel is rising (see Business travel costs continue to climb).  Yet the myth that our cars provide the best form of travel for us persists.  Gov. Walker will be seeking to expand a highway into an interstate at a cost of $1.5 billion over six years.  While his budget guts the funding to public education, tax credits for poor, public transit, and state health insurance, Mr. Walker proposes to expand the archaic freeway system.  While this may seem like a joke, it isn't yet.  The punchline is coming.

Former Gov. Doyle had created four Regional Transportation Authorities (RTAs) that could assess a .5% sales tax to generate revenue in order to fund construction of a rail line between Kenosha and Milwaukee, called the KRM Commuter Rail.  The KRM would link to the Metra in Kenosha effectively linking Milwaukee to a million jobs.  The average daily ridership for the Kenosha Metra line in 2010 was over 36,000.  According to Transit Now, the KRM would create up to 71,000 jobs through support of long-term development around stations, over 3560 jobs, and $425 million impact on area economy in the construction of the KRM, and provide126 jobs, and $24 mil. annual impact on economy, in KRM operations and maintenance.

The idea of having a cost effective way to travel from Milwaukee to Chicago that also created jobs, and built a reliable infrastructure for the future seemed to be a no-brainer if there ever was one.  Unfortunately, Wisconsin's current leader as well as the republicans who serve him, have no brains.   Now here is the punchline: On May 3rd, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted 12 to 4 strictly along party lines to support the proposal to eliminate RTAs and the commuter rail.

And the reasoning behind the vote?  The closest Wisconsin will probably get to a rational explanation was offered by Robin Vos, (R-Burlington), the co-Chair of the JFC.  He called RTAs "undemocratic and unaccountable."  Okay, thanks anyway.  Does it seem a little strange that a public transportation system would be undemocratic?  Isn't it more likely that it's democratic since it serves the people?

Investing in public transit creates networks for business to travel on.  Traveling in cars, planes, and trucks is one of the least cost effective ways to do business.  In order to add clarity to his previous statement, Mr. Vos added, "Let's finally bury this in the ground -- deep."  The unified republican stance is that RTAs are wasteful, unpopular, and promote higher taxes.  If that seems shortsighted, that's because it is.

The shared mythology that public transit is a drain on society contradicts the facts.  Yet Wisconsin's leaders cling to it like dingleberries.  Around the world, most developed nations rely on public transport systems because they seemingly understand the four pillars of a strong society: education, health care, safety, and transportation.  Because of our current administration's conservative policy, we are losing a chance to be better prepared for a time when there is little oil and higher gas prices - higher than $4.30 a gallon.  Gov. Walker ran on a pledge to build a strong Wisconsin for our children and our grandchildren - he seems to have fallen back on ancient myths instead.

Do you think we should be investing in rail or in new interstates?  Which type of transportation is more effective, both in cost and safely delivering people to their destinations?
On a completely different note: it came as some relief to know that not everyone was jubilant about the execution of Osama bin Laden.  We have not heard the last of our violation of Pakistan's sovereignty by sending in our Navy SEALs either.  That will not reflect well on our record.  The key to any situation is empathy - try to imagine the tables turned.  
One last note:
Have you ever visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky?  Evidently, it's unforgettable  But if you can't make it, our friends at the Skeptical Monkey can take you on a virtual ride of your life.  Get ready to travel back 6,000 years to the beginning of everything!

02 May 2011

The Execution of bin Laden, or The end of morality

The morning arrived quicker than I hoped.  Before six I stumbled from bed, and bumbled to the porch to grab the paper.  My eyes bulged as a picture of a large group of people holding an American  flag jumped off the page; everyone's mouths were gaping, fists and fingers in the air, and abundant smiles.  What was this?  I immediately thought as I perked up.  Ideas raced through my head.  Something of some great significance has happened. Could it be world peace? The end of poverty as we know it?  The cure for AIDS, or Cancer, or heart disease, or any number of plagues on humankind?  What could have happened to have caused what appeared to be extreme jubilation?

If you're like me, that is you're a human being living on planet Earth and you have access to some type of news source, you have heard by now that what these people were celebrating in sheer ecstasy was nothing noble or courageous but the death of one man, Osama bin Laden, at the hands of US Navy SEALs.  My initial cheer turned to disappointment and then sadness.  The sadness I felt was not for Mr. bin Laden, although I couldn't help but think that somewhere his relatives are grieving, ruing the US, and sharpening their blades, but the real focus of my sadness was for the people celebrating.  After all they were rejoicing jubilantly over Osama bin Laden's execution.  Is this morally justified, to celebrate someone's killing?  Should we really be celebrating such a thing?  Some of the faces looked purely demented, filled with joy and rage at the same moment.

On Wisconsin Public Radio the news of bin Laden's death preempted regular programming so guests and callers could literally rejoice on air in a kind of communal call to unity over this killing.

Matt Rothschild declared, "I'm delighted whenever a mass murderer dies."  Delighted?  And he's a progressive! We should definitely question this reaction.  We should question it because we are humans who possess morals.  We should question this reaction because it isn't right.  Should we really be delighted when someone dies or is killed, whether they are an enemy or a friend?

Mass murderer?  Was bin Laden a mass murderer?  He claimed responsibility for giving the orders to attack the Twin Towers, while the perpetrators, the murderers, of that criminal act died in the attack.  Bin Laden was responsible for instigating, organizing terrorist attacks around the world through al-Qaeda and other terrorists sects, for example, the bombing of the USS Cole, and the Madrid train bombing.  He either ordered, instigated, and/or funded these terrorist acts, among others, that have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers.  In no way should this be condoned.   

However, sticking to Rothschild's line of reasoning then, labeling bin Laden a mass murderer for orchestrating (not conducting or carrying out) the crimes attributed to him, Rothschild, to be consistent, must be anxiously awaiting for the executions of both George Bushes who are responsible for the orders that killed hundreds of thousands of civilian Panamanians, Kuwaitis, Iraqis, Afghans, to name just a few atrocities.  He must be diabolically twiddling his thumbs hoping for the prompt deaths of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama who have been instrumental in the thousands killed in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, and on and on.  Rothschild must also have been ecstatic when Reagan died as he was responsible for the heinous crimes in El Salvador, the invasion that killed thousands in Grenada and the arms shipments and CIA involvement in Nicaragua, to name a few outright criminal acts.  Who orchestrated more deaths in the world, bin Laden or any one of these US presidents over the last thirty years?  You can rest assured knowing that George H. W. Bush in his short four years as president is responsible for the ordering of more deaths than bin Laden.

Another guest on the show said that the killing of bin Laden was, "... the culmination of a decade of work of our Special Forces."  Ten years of work of resources - imagine the lives, the money spent, arms, time - spent on hunting down one man.  I don't think we can even speculate on the toll this manhunt has cost us.  But this much I know it has cost us: it has cost us our morals and our senses.

Jarret Brachman, a counterterrorism specialist and author, self assuredly announced, "Like every American, I celebrate this.  We've brought a really evil man to justice."  Unlike Mr. Brachman, I don't believe every American is celebrating.  Other people have come out and spoken against these celebrations as well.  So although the overwhelming news seems to be celebratory, there are people who oppose this type of reaction because death is a startlingly somber notion and should be treated as such.  We deplore the images of burning American bodies while onlookers chant anti-US slogans.  Yet when the US carries out similar atrocities, we parade.

Unfortunately for our nation one of those people against the celebrations is not our president.  The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize today declared, "I think we can all agree this is a good day for America."  Mr. President, I compassionately disagree.  The partying in the country and around the world is eerily reminiscent of  American effigies burning in mobs of craven faced vigilantes chanting for the downfall of the United States. 

The larger problem, and maybe the most deleterious one, after spending the countless hours, money and resources on this hunt, the accomplishment is whittled down to this: the US has created a martyr.  "He was like a hero in the Muslim world," said Sayed Jalal, a rickshaw driver in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. "His struggle was always against non-Muslims and infidels, and against superpowers."  The execution of Osama bin Laden essentially will change nothing except prop him up as a 'national' hero for anti-US sentiment.  What his death seems to have accomplished is the cementing of his place in the annals of martyrdom.  He has been declared a martyr.  Contrary to some people's thinking, this will probably lead to greater friction and strife.

Central to all of this is not the liberty or the freedom in the US, it is our very idea of justice, so perfectly illustrated by our action and reactions today, that is condemned around the world.  Looking at just a few examples from this generations' foreign policy, from Reagan to Obama, is just the tip of the covert iceberg.   As Stephen Kinzer noted, "No one in the world cares how much or how little freedom there is in the United States.  What angers them is the way the United States uses its power to crush freedom in other parts of the world."  The CIA and the military complex in America is treading a dangerous line.  While waging war around the world, US corporations have supplanted local small businesses in Latin and South America, and Southeast Asia churning record profits while condemning the local workers to lives of servitude.  The US is not in the business of creating more allies.

So while people's blood lust for vengeance has for the moment found reprieve, it at the same time spawns more twisted and wicked ways for torture to rear its devastating consequences.  For, think about this, as the death of this one man is cherished, the celebratory gestures give credence and credibility to the covert operations conducted by our malevolent foreign policy makers and military planners.  Before blaming Pakistan for sheltering bin Laden, ask yourself this: what were US special forces doing within the border of a sovereign nation?  What if, for example, this was turned around and it was George W. Bush who was executed by Jordanian, or Lebanese, or Iraqi sea, air, and land operatives?  How would you react then to see pictures of jubilant Arabs cursing Mr. Bush and denouncing America?

It's understandable that many people who lost loved ones in the crime that occurred at the World Trade Center now feel some relief.  This should never be denied as a heinous and criminal act nor should we cease to denounce terrorist acts anywhere, including those perpetrated by our own country.  But should one heinous act be the justification for hundreds or thousands of heinous acts?  Since September 11, 2001, the US has invaded two countries, one of which, Iraq, had nothing to do with the attack in New York, carried out continuous bombings in Pakistan and Afghanistan, performed countless covert operations, executed hundreds of targeted terrorists, imprisoned thousands of 'war criminals' without charging them nor without fair trial - they are the incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where no American is legally allowed to set foot, imprisoned Army Pfc. Bradley Manning as a political prisoner, and killed Osama bin Laden, to list just a few.  The US is not a 'good guy' in this fight any more than Iran is evil.

Those who claim this moment as a chance for the US to come together as a unified nation, to revel in the news, are chanting jingoism.  Coming together in blood baths is not morally right, it is ethically and morally wrong.  The reason to come together as a nation today should be to vilify this deed as an act of covert operations that we will not tolerate - not in our country and not by our country.  Although Gandhi's turn of words has become cliche (it is such a beautiful sentiment that it ought not become a cliche, when a phrase becomes cliche it loses its meaning and becomes neutralized), it is clearly applicable: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

The truth behind this whole story is that we the people of America are blind.  We hear what we are told by our leaders and our media - most influentially by television.  We have bought this 'persona of evil' rhetoric that our politicians are conning us with.  But our government is not transparent.  It is utterly opaque.  And in meeting rooms all around the country, warlords and power hungry egomaniacs plan future movements and atrocities that we the people know nothing about (see infecting Guatemalans with STDs as an example) but accept without question.  Because of this, we should be especially wary with our celebrations.   Here's a fact that is almost guaranteed: we don't know which facts are facts and which facts are fiction.  On that you can bank.  We don't know.

Before reacting over-zealously about a man being hunted down and killed, pause to reflect what killing bin Laden gains and what we lose because of it.  Killing in the name of vengeance does not bring about peace.  And killing a man who had billions of dollars means he won't die easily nor will his cause be forgotten quickly.  Yet it costs the United States far more.  This foreign policy, hunting down terrorists and executing them, tarnishes the American people, creates more dissension and aversion toward us, and isn't based on sound reasoning.  It is a policy based on an insidious lie: that everyone wants to live like Americans do.  That's just not true.  And no matter how much we celebrate an execution, it won't bring our dead back, but it will mean that more will die.  And that is true.

Rather than cheering our government on to commit more planned acts of violence and emboldening them to commit more human rights violations, the people of America need to stand united against all acts of violence no matter how major or minute and demand our Nobel Prize carrying president to do the same.
UPDATE on May 6th:  The cost of bin Laden: $3 trillion over 15 years

01 May 2011

Gov. Walker fancies himself the next Reagan and why this should worry us

Back in February, Gov. Walker had a rather embarrassing and revealing phone conversation with Ian Murphy pretending to be multimillionaire David Koch.  As he carried on about his intentions with protesters and how to proceed with his plan to strip the collective bargaining rights of public employees, he compared himself to Ronald Reagan, "And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers."

I have been waiting with bated breath for anyone to critically analyze Mr. Walker's aspirations and comparison.  Does he really see himself as the next Ronald Reagan? 

It has become an ubiquitous trend to revere Reagan as the winner of The Cold War, and the bastion of sound economic policy.  Unfortunately none of it is true.  A generous assessment of Reagan makes him an adequate to mediocre president.   A less generous assessment rates Reagan as one of the worst presidents. 

A brief look at Reagan's eight years reveals the following facts: 
  • he was the first president to turn the US into a debtor nation 
  • he was the first president to see unemployment rates hit 10%
  • during his presidency, homelessness reached 2 million people
  • he did little if anything to contribute to the fight against AIDS
  • he supported the Apartheid government in South Africa
  • he promoted covert operations throughout Latin America  
The Iran-Contra affair should be enough in itself to tarnish his presidency and was grounds for a criminal case in the International Court of Justice (IC]).  The World Court sanctioned the US.  In addition to his administration's support of the Contras in Nicaragua, Reagan invaded Grenada, illicitly supported the atrocities and slaughters in El Salvador, and funded paramilitary groups in Guatemala.  In short Reagan was no great president.  It reveals more about the person who acclaims Reagan than it should about Reagan.  Reagan's record is sealed.  The politicians who would love to promote the man as a true American hero have a very different agenda.

More relevant to Scott Walker's agenda - cutting taxes, cutting spending, balancing the budget, cutting programs for the needy - was Reagan's concerns, or lack of them, for the welfare of the people.  The rate of homelessness rose during the eighties to unprecedented numbers.  During the first years of his term, the US was thrust into a massive recession that eventually made Reagan raise taxes.  The other side effect of Reaganonmics was the largest growth of income disparity and national debt in the history of the US.  It continues to rise.  Additionally, under Reagan's harsh view of crime, incarceration rates rose exponentially for the first time in US history.  They continue to rise today.

Remarkably, the same tactics that were employed by Reagan are being instituted today as our saving grace.  The "new" republicans have only given rebirth to old policies, like "voodoo economics", that didn't work then and won't work now.

In the first few months of Scott Walker's administration, Gov. Walker, the Fitzgerald brothers and the rest of the lot have made it abundantly clear who they aim to target and whom they hold responsible for the State's problem.  They blame the poor, the indigent, the mentally ill, the handicapped, and the public employees.  They are propping up the corporations as our heroes and the only "people" who will rescue us through more jobs.  Even if new jobs are created, it must be said, poor folks won't be able to get to them because the administration is cutting public transit, just as he did as County Executive in Milwaukee County.  All the while, as the corporations are given a heroes welcome, they are making record breaking profits as working class people struggle to keep their homes.  Walker has religiously preached a hands-off policy with corporations that will lead to larger problems in the future.  (China's oppression of workers' rights comes to mind here.)

Another connection between Walker and Reagan is the effect Reagan had on the mental health system in California as Governor.  He decimated and dismantled the system.  Prior to his Gubernatorial election, Claifornia's mental health system was one of the best.  It slowly became one of the worst due to the huge cuts made by Reagan.  Gov. Walker has the same intentions in Wisconsin.  During a time when the country was thrust into a demoralizing Great Recession due to tax cuts and the costs of two wars, Wisconsin protected its unemployed by offering State health insurance to the underprivileged.  The Badger Care program was initiated by Tommy Thompson as a way to ensure that W2 recipients who were working were also receiving health coverage.  Walker's appointment, Dennis Smith, aims to make drastic cuts the Badger Care and Badger Care Plus programs.  The results of these cuts will be similar to the cuts that Reagan made.  Wisconsin won't experience growth.  Wisconsin will be thrust into greater poverty and more widespread disparity.  The inequality in income, education, and health will continue to rise.  The same misguided principles were promoted by Reagan; they failed California and they failed the nation.  

It seems quite true that Mr. Walker would love to run the State as Reagan ran California - picture Reagan munching on grapes on television while workers at vineyards were striking.  Just as Reagan did, Walker has further ambitions for higher office.  The only reason for his attacks on the public sector unions was additional fodder for his presidential resume. 

Read more about Reagan and AIDS: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/06/08/EDG777163F1.DTL
Read more about the dramatic ICJ case, Nicaragua v. United States: http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1426&context=iclr&sei-redir=1#search=%22world+court%22


Also, too noteworthy to pass up, the god particle may have been found.  Nietzsche once declared, "God is dead." To which the religionist replied, "the result of a syphilitic with a pen."

Over the last few days, scientists have reported that they may have discovered the Higgs boson particle.  This may not be the final piece needed to prove that there is no god but it provides vindication and indications for what was prior to the Big Bang.    The Higgs boson is essentially the smoking gun.  Religionists of course will always find a way to believe, and that's all right.  There's always a possibility.  But could we at least start working on combining all of the world's religions into one.  Maybe it'd end much of the warfare.

Read more about the particle:


Read about the link between faith and science: